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Adam Turner

Seven challenges of managing digital channels in regulated industries

Accessibility


Being a website or digital marketing manager is a rewarding role, but it comes with its challenges, particularly around ensuring your channels comply with the regulatory environment in your country and industry sector.

While this is true for all businesses, the challenges are heightened for regulated industries such as financial services, legal services, healthcare, life sciences, gaming companies and government institutions. Here industry regulators have a far greater number of requirements that businesses must comply with, some of which will impact how you manage your digital channels and content. Some regulators are far more likely to take action when these requirements are not met, so this is a priority area.

Let’s look at some of the challenges associated with managing digital channels in a regulated industry.

  1. A culture of risk

    Regulated industries tend to have a wider culture of risk (and therefore risk mitigation) that can influence operational processes, technology choices, content management and more. This means digital teams need to put in place more controls, monitoring and review processes, effective reporting and training to make sure that risks are mitigated and compliance is managed. An additional knock-on effect is that teams’ actions can draw more attention from senior management or in-house risk functions where compliance is a priority, and there is a general higher perception of risk.

    A culture of risk can be a challenge. When digital teams move over from a non-regulated industry to financial services or working for a public company, it can feel like a culture shock with less freedom to manoeuvre and even operational constraints. However, in our experience, when you put in the right processes and tools to support reporting and compliance, and you gain the confidence of stakeholders, digital teams have much more freedom to operate than they realise.

  2. Content compliance

    A significant challenge for website teams are regulations that require content to be drafted in a particular way. This is often around avoiding particular statements or content that implies meaning that has the potential to mislead customers or provide inaccurate information; for example, companies within Financial Services have specific ways they must present products and services to customers.

    Monitoring this regulated content is a must. Here, a product like Sitemorse that can provide ongoing automated checks for the use of specific terms, phrases and even punctuation has real value as it can help you to identify and check pages where there might be increased risk, supporting regulatory compliance across your digital footprint.

    As well as guidance on content, some regulators require statements or different information to be included on a company website.  This might be a very simple statement about the regulator, contact information that must be included, information relating to sector-related licenses or agreements, a form or link to provide, and so on. While this is not necessarily a challenge to include, it is important to keep up to date with any updates to requirements introduced by the regulator so you can make any necessary changes accordingly.

  3. Documentation and PDFs

    Sometimes if there is information about products, services and activities on a website of an organisation within a regulated industry, different documentation may be required to also be included. Any documents will also be subject to the regulatory compliance required across all your content.

    On most websites, documents are usually provided in PDF format.  Managing PDFs and ensuring they are up to date and meet any regulatory requirements can be a significant challenge. Attachments and PDFs remain less visible to content teams working within a CMS because they are attachments rather than pages, so updates sometimes get missed. The process for updating PDFs is also often outside the normal content management processes managed by the web team; it may take longer and may be the responsibility of another team. Here again using an automated solution like Sitemorse that covers PDFs can help teams within regulated industries to avoid PDF pitfalls.

  4. Accessibility

    Maintaining an accessible website – usually to complying with AA level of the WCAG 2.1 guidelines – is something that all organisations should be working towards. But going forward accessibility is increasingly likely to be on the radar of industry regulators.

    Some sectors – such as government – are already impacted by legislation that covers website accessibility. But some other regulators are already reflecting it in their guidelines; arguably if your regulator requires your website to provide some specific information on your website that is deemed important for site visitors and should be clear and visible, then you are not carrying this out unless it is accessible to all.

  5. GDPR, cookies and other customer interactions

    In regulated industries such as Financial Services where there is a culture of risk, there will be an emphasis on safeguarding privacy and getting elements such as GDPR, cookie polices and related statements, completely right so that all legal and regulatory obligations are met. Here risk teams may take a detailed and even forensic approach, so website teams can expect to commit time and effort to this area.

  6. Demonstrating changes

    Sometimes a regulator may require changes to be made, which impacts the content on your entire website, for example the wording on a standard industry disclaimer. If you have a large sprawling site with years of content, it’s not only a challenge to find all the places you need to make the changes, but also to demonstrate to a regulator that the changes have been actioned.

    Here, Sitemorse customers have found the LIVEARCHIVE site recording service that archives all the respective versions of your content and makes it all fully searchable, is invaluable in making and demonstrating changes required by regulators.

  7. Monitoring the wider ecosystem

    An organisation’s digital footprint is not just confined to the corporate website and the company Twitter account, it effectively spills over into channels which the central marketing function may not have direct control over, but where it may be considered to be an organisation’s “official” content. For example, a jobs board run on a SaaS platform, suppliers and affiliates where your company’s services are promoted, and even your CEO’s social media presence, can all come under scrutiny. In global organisations you may have a myriad of digital channels controlled by local offices or subsidiaries.

    In these cases, central digital marketing teams usually need to carry out some kind of monitoring to check for compliance. Here automated testing that can be done remotely is the most cost effective and realistic option to keep on top of a large and often expanding digital universe. From our own experience, Sitemorse customers have consistently valued the ability to apply Sitemorse automated assessment to more or less any website or digital channel, not necessarily controlled by the team.

Keeping your stakeholders and regulators happy

Website and digital teams working in regulated industries have some additional challenges compared to others. They need to adopt various processes and use tools to keep their regulators happy as well as their internal stakeholders. However, with the right approaches, most teams are able to prioritise their activities to minimise risk and manage a successful digital presence.

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